Joseph Rutherford to Daughter
I thought I could not close the labours of another Sabath better than writing a
letter to you. Speaking of the labours of the sabath: suggests to my mind that
perhaps you would like to know how the sabath is spent in the army. You would
[ ] suppose that where so many men are
gathered together that it would be no difficult matter to "go to meeting", or
rather attend divine worship but the contrary is the fact. The military man
knows no sunday as a day of worship or not. All military duties are performed on
sunday as on other days, except when the weather permits of outdoor preaching or
have a short sermon some time in the afternoon, I will give you a specimen and
this applies to every day. First, the drums beat at 5 o'clock in the morning for
every body to "turn out" as it is called, that is to get up, there every man
moves in the regiment (except the officers) is called.
& every man must answer to his name unless on special duty. They they all
get ready to eat their breakfast, which is ready at 6 o'clock. At 7 the
different companies are called out for drill, where they go through with
marching & counter marching practicing the different ways of handling their
guns &c. This lasts two hours. From this time tell two oclock then men have
various duties to perform. They get it every day. After this come "dress Parade"
This consists of the whole regiment drawn up in a long straight line in 2 rows,
one behind the other. This is a fine view the men all
in their best dress, with two beautiful flags flying, all the
officers on horse back. Here the Captain of each company has to give an account of all his men, and all arms and fifes playing their best tunes. This performance is cloud at 5 1/2 oclock. When every man goes to his tent and gets ready for his supper. Some times the men have some other work to do, such as standing guard and doing picket duty and making rifle pits and a great many other things. My duties commence at 8 oclock in the morning. At this hour the drum beats the "Surgeons call", for every thing is done by the tap of the drum. Now the surgeons call is this. When the drum beats, the orderly Sergeant take of each company takes all his sick men that are able to walk to the Dispensay -(this is where the medicines are kept.). The surgeons are [ ] waiting for them. Then he calls for each company in sucession then call for for a man who answer to his man, when he comes up I ask him what ails him, then he tells me. After finding out what ails him I tell the Hospital steward who stands behind me what to give him, and so on till I get through. It is curious to hear the different complaint the men complain of, and to see what curious ways men will take to get ride of doing their honest duty, and it is such mere as this that find fault with the surgeon. Because we are shrude enough to find out their meanness they attempt to cover up their rascally cheating by abusing us surgeon. But we can as little for all this growling as we do for the idle minds. Ah but we are thousand times repaid when we see the gratitude of those that are really sick for the kindness we bestow upon them. My dear child it would make you feel proud of your old Father to go with him into the hospital and see the sick soldiers raise up their heads to get alook at him as the papers along through the words, and when he goes to their bed side see them
get hold of his hand with both of theirs when they have strength enough to do so, and if you would see their grateful looks and hear them say "how do you do surgeon" it would cause your dear eyes to fill with tear for pride. And it is this that greatly compensates for the many hardships I have to pass through. After we get through with the "Surgeons call" we visit the hospital, and by the time we get round it is dinner time. [ ] we seperate and go to our tents to attend to such calls as may come in and generally our time is fully occupied now and then I match a little time jump on my horse and ride a little way into the country. We are in a brigade of 4 regiments which makes a city of 4000 inhabitants. By the way you can judge whether or take care of our men or not. When I tell you how much differance there is in the number sick in each regiment. In the Mass 39th Regt they have over 200 sick exclure of those sick in hospital which are over men, and from 1 to 3 die every day. In the Maine 23d the sickness is fearful and they have not been here much over a month, and that of the N.H. 14th is bad and growing worse. While that of ours is only 60 excused from duty and 23 in hospital and are doing well. All these regiments have been exposed to the same influences. Now what can all this differance we attribute to? Simply to a proper care of the men generally - We have had a number of virtues from Vermont this last week and they express in the strangest terms their approbation of the excelent care the sick receive from our hands, and we should not be ashamed to have the whole of Vermont visit us. I do not know of this narration will interest you but I wanted to let you know a few facts that you might not think your Father [ ] a brute as soon repressment.
Today has been a cold raw day, the wind has blown
fearfully. I thought a number of times it would turn my tent up side down The three days past it has rained furiously and made the roads very bad, but the mud has dried up very much today. I suppose you have seen in the papers that the Rebs occupy Leesburg. We are but a little way from that plan. Were it not for some woods on the other side of the river I could see that plan from the top of a hill not far from our camp. We have Pickets thrown out up the river to prevent a surprise, and our men are supplied with materials enough for a good fight should or be attacked. Did you know how near we came of going off in Banks expedition? So near was it that preparations had already been commanded for our joining it.
I came very near forgetting to tell you that we are making proper rations to celebrate thanksgiving in honor of Old Vt. I have already bought the chickens for a pie and partially bargained for 10 turkeys, and when you sit down to your thanksgiving dinner just think that your Father is doing the [ ] and shall think of you at home. Though my seat [ ] at the board I know I have a seat in your hearts, and shall occupy it in spirit.
My candle is getting short and I must close this at once as I shall have no time in the morning to do so. I read your last letter the one accompanied by "[ ]". Tell her I will answer hers next. Tell Jacob that I did not have time to write him a letter next time Tell Kittie that papa wants to see her very much, and Kiss them all for me. I wrote a few days ago to your Mother, and shall write again soon. Remember me to all our good friends.
Tell your Mother that George Newcomb was taken sick today with the Typhoid fever. If you see any of his friends you can tell them, I have taken him under my especial care and he shall want for nothing.
God bless you my dear daughter and all the rest
your affectionate FatherJ C. Rutherford
Monday morning before daylight - We had a very cold night last night water froze 1/2 an inch thick in my pail. I suppose Mother will send those pictures I do want them so much. There was a battle day. Our Brigade is a part of the defence of Washington. There is a rumor that we are to move in a few days nearer Washington. Frisouly 14 miles from here to W_____.